Today, Ash Wednesday, begins the season of Lent in the Christian calendar. It is a penitential season leading up to Passion week and Easter day. For many it is a time to consecrate a fast, to make us aware of our own mortality and hungering for a closer connection with God. It is a season of 40 days (excluding Sundays which are feast days) that parallel Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness where the devil attempted to get Jesus to worship him. We begin the season by the imposition of ashes, being reminded that “from dust you came and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
Of course we know that though we will return to dust, it was precisely Jesus’ obedience to the Father that bought our salvation and eternal life. This is the great story of Easter (but more about that on another blog). There are three things we need to remember during this season of personal reflection and penitence.
First, we need to understand the depth of our brokenness and our inability to fix ourselves. Jesus understands our struggles because he was ‘tempted in every way as we are, yet he was without sin.’ Jesus did not sin yet he was keenly aware of the pain of being separated from God and the effects it had on Adam’s offspring. He walked with them, he healed them, he saw the consequences of their choices and comforted them. He walks with us now and we learn to lean on him.
Second, Jesus walks with us because he knows we will have to ‘deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.’ Jesus came, not to improve our lives but to end our lives and he knows how painful that is. He did not come singing the old Billy Joel song, ‘Don’t go changing, to try and please me, I love you just the way you are.’ He does not affirm us in our brokenness, but demands that we be ‘crucified with Christ – it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me – and the life live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:20)
Third, we are made new. ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17,18) Not only are we made new, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. That is why we will pray for those during this season that are on our ‘Most Wanted’ list. We will ‘do the possible, and let God do the impossible.’
May we be strengthened and renewed on this journey.